Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Being Heard

Tuesday's in this semester had been the busiest. The two hour lecture in the forenoon session is followed by a three hour lab. in afternoon session. The Vivekananda study circle begins at 7 p.m. In between, we have meeting of neuro-signal processing groups on alternate week. The day ends with rushing back to home from study circle at about 8:15 p.m. and teaching my daughter for an hour or so.

However, this Tuesday morning I had two interesting student visitors in my office once the double lectures were over. They were two 2nd year students from the Dept. of Industrial Engineering & Management. Intially I thought that they are following up business plan development activity, one management school head asked me to help sometime back.

It was a sweet surprise when they told that they wanted to meet me for a reason-other than professional. They wanted to inform me one intiative they (a team of 10 students) are launching inspired by the activities of Mr. Anshu Gupta, an Ashoka fellow and a journalist. His aim is to channelize 'vital resources lying in excess in urban and middle-class household to far flung areas of rural India' i.e. one person's rag can be another person's riches. The organization he has lunched is named 'Goonj .. a voice an effort' and now has 300 volunteers across 20 states. It was awarded 'Indian NGO of the year' for its governance and practices. (source

It was nice to know about Goonj and the students' willingness to be a part of this effort. On operational issues the students said that for next three Sundays (till end-sem exam.) they would be holding camps in different halls to collect disposable garments. Goonj has some process of converting them to useful products like sanitray napkins etc. for distribution among rural masses. Post end-sem exam. they would sort the collection, pack them and send to one collection centre of Goonj.

I asked them to think about what the team members would do rest of the year. Garment collection can be done once a year or twice a year. Also, there are at least three other organizations who approached the campus community in 2008 for collection of old garments - twice for flood relief victims and once for distribution among the local poors in the neighbourhood of IITkgp campus. The previous collection drives must not have reached each of the 10000 strong campus community members and thus there is lot of scope but the expectation can be modest and the effort required, would be higher.

I also made them aware of some age old adage on new initiative like this -  they may face ridicule, opposition and even then if they stick to it the acceptance might come. People may doubt their intention - whether it is to add some brownie point in their resume, siphoning off funds collected etc. etc. It is not that such things do not happen in the name of NGO activity. Also one may ask that there are at least 5-6 other NGO arms operating in IITkgp campus - why another one?

The more than an hour interaction ended with a very positive note. I told them that I am  interested to know how this effort benefits the less privileged section of the society. However, I shall be more interested to know what effect engagements like these brings unto the team members. The ten of them at present, probably more to join - how they prepare themeselves to respond to the need of the nation that makes every act of us a service, not just one effort here, another effort there and that dissolves the invisible boundary of our selfish and unselfish selves.

It was great to know about this new initiative of the young IITians. As we have many religions, sects, catering to the needs of people of different background - we can have many such intiatives catering to the aspiration of young population. 

Let the 'Goonj' be heard in IITkgp campus. Go ahead, dear students. Our best wishes... 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Three Cheers

Was congratulated by many the next day itself!
Was waiting for the officialconfirmation.

Today afternoon it has come.

All three of us who faced the selection committee are through. Therefore, three cheers!

Started sending mails to near and dear ones about this update...or displaying as new status.

Not surprised at all as the interview went very well ...  so well that I was offered funding for a new project, got a good project idea etc.  ...  discussed new responsibilities that take the NSS, Study Circle concept forward and make it more effective. All of us ... myself and the experts ... it appeared that enjoyed the 20 minute interaction ... had it not been lunch time, we could have continued for more.

Our innovation now ranks in the top 70 innovation under DST-FICCI-Lockheed Martin program. Attended a workshop in Delhi 10 days back. Believe ... we'll feature in top 30. 

The Digital book next edition work is almost complete. The communication book's US edition work has started.

Samit submitted his PhD thesis. To start checking Suman's work and thesis who left in Jan. for a foreign job. The new team is slowly getting into shape.  Sandipan and Prashanta in Hyderabad .. like having an off-campus centre there for our lab.

Three new sponsored projects are to begin in 2009. Two short term courses. Pretty hectic.To participate in INDAC 09, arranged in Hotel Hindustan International, Kolkata.

The other work in summer vacation is to look for a longer lasting sloution to Ma's osteoarthritis problem. Brishti's exam. will be over in another two days and my teaching job at home .. in parallel with Mid.-Sem. script checking.

ORKUT is doing a wonderful job ... in last few days got connected to many.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


The best of the academic institutes each year leaves the country.
The second best are picked up by companies providing very high compensation - a final year student in his farewel party arranged by the E&ECE Dept., IIT Kharagpur told the Head of the Dept. that he would be earning more than double the Head was earning at less than half the age by not being a part of Govt. research lab. in India like the Head. The student was talking to a person who toiled himself and led a team who trained the student.
The third best plays it safe by joining Pvt. or Govt. sector providing decent salary and perks.
Most of the students joining Govt. research lab.s or filling up project positions or looking for M.S. or Ph.D opportunities are the ones who got rejected everywhere. It is the greatness of the IIT system and untiring effort of the IIT faculty to bring the best out of these students, to get decent output from their research lab.s while being at a much, much, more disadvantageous position compared to his competitor at the other side of the globe.
Manpower is the key element of a research lab. It can be a good thought experiment to swap the students we get in our research lab. with the ones available in US research lab.s and then compare the output of these lab.s.
Thus the recession and the following research report in bring some cheer to me, not in a saddistic sense - but from the consideration that the research lab.s of our country may now get what it desearves, some of the better students the country produces.
Hope, the present student generation considers these before they exercise their choices.
From, March 09, 2009

Research report -- titled America's Loss is the Worlds Gain: America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs - Part 4 -- was just released by the Kauffman Foundation. It is based on interviews with 1,203 Indian and Chinese professionals who had worked or studied in the US but returned home.

We found that the vast majority of the returnees were in their 30's and 90% held masters or PhDs in management, technology or science. They were at the very top of the educational distribution for these highly educated immigrant groups -- precisely the kind of people that make the greatest contribution to the US economy and job growth.

We asked them why they returned and how they have fared since returning. Returnees said they had much better economic and professional opportunities in their home countries and they had advanced significantly in their careers. Respondents saw much better entrepreneurial opportunities back home, and over half of our sample planned to start their own business, if they had not already done so.

But it wasn't only about the money or career opportunities. Most were making less money, but believed they had a better quality of life. They found emotional growth and family values to be much better in their home countries. They also confirmed that family considerations were the strongest factors drawing them home.

It wasn't just H1-B's and students who were returning. Thirty percent were US permanent residents or citizens. About a third complained about the pollution and bureaucracy back home. Regardless, only a quarter of our sample said they intended return to the US.

An analysis of the 2000 census by William R Kerr of Harvard Business School showed that immigrants made up 24% of the US science and engineering workforce holding bachelor's degrees and 47% of science and engineering workers that have PhDs. Yet, immigrants account for only 12% of the US working population.

What's more, immigrants made up 67% of all additions to US science and engineering workforce between 1995 to 2006. Kerr found evidence that the presence of more foreign knowledge workers actually had a positive impact on patent filings by US born workers in the same region.

Similarly, Jennifer Hunt of McGill University and Marjolaine Gauthier-Loiselle of Princeton University analysed long-term changes in the US population in a paper published in January 2009 titled 'How Much Does Immigration Boost Innovation?'

They calculated that, for every percentage point rise in the share of immigrant college graduates in the US population, the total per capita number of patents for the entire population should increase by 6 percent.

Make no mistake. This is a zero-sum game. Immigrants who leave America will launch their companies in other countries, file patents in other countries and fill the intellectual coffers of other countries. Those companies and those patents will benefit countries like India, China and Canada not the United States. America's loss is the world's gain.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Another life lost! 
And the same youth react differently when terrorist elements from other nations traumatize our beautiful country!
What about the terrorist elements lurking within us terrorizing the beautiful, young mind who for the first time are stepping out of their sweet home for a professional career?
Yes, I am talking about ragging in student campus. Today TOI reports (appended below) death of a first year medical students who are harassed repeatedly and beaten to death by their third year seniors, all drunk. The poor boy told his parents but the parents sent him back thinking (wishing and praying)  it was a passing phase. 
I wonder if there will be any survey by saner portion of the student community addressing these
1) What percentage of students falter in study, develop psychological problem due to ragging?
2) Who are these seniors continuing and abetting the crime? Are they the frustrated lot who are not doing well in study, lacks self-confidence and ragging is the only way to show their 'manliness' or find some value for themselves?
3) How much is it related to establishing authority of a section of students so that their fifedom continues along with creation of next line of command (from juniors) to continue the unholy activities?
4) How much is it reated to the abetter of the crime not participating in social and cultural activities, sports and games etc.. Are they indulging in such saddistic pleasure by not getting/utilizing an avenue to channelize their energy?
5) How much does it come from a sense of revenge but directed to a wrong person - I was humiliated, I cannot humiliate a senior, I'll derive plaesure by humiliating a junior?
6) Finally, how many among the so called 'good boys' among the seniors who do not actively participate in ragging but justify it?

There is no fun in traumatizing the lives of a fresher and his parents. There is no 'manliness' in showing my 'power' to someone in a disadvantageous position. The 'orientation' can be done in much healthier manner by arranging cultural function, sports etc. and asking them to participate in it. The faculty members can also be included somewhere in the loop, if so required. 
Let's eradicate this social evil we have inherited. Let the youth of India inculcate healthy habits and unitedly fight against menaces trying to destroy our country, create division, destroy the dream of young achievers. A terrorist attack in Mumbai, killing 200 people unites the whole country.  Why not deaths as reported next, and trauma the young lives go through, the slow poisoning in the name of ragging unite us and let us stand firm against it? Do we ourselves also derive/derived some sort of plesaure out of it? Do we in our work place indulge in similar things to our new collagues, making his/her life as difficult as possible in a new place? Do all the people in an advanatageous position do the same thing to some one who come in their way and in an disadvantageous position? I am trying to generalize it by not singling out the student community and to include me as a faculty member. My greatest hope lies in the younger generation, the youth of this country, the agent of change! You can if you want.

It is always easy to point finger at others and fight somebody who comes from outside. It is very difficult to find fault with ourselves and work resolutely to come out of that. But, we have to do that, if we want a young, vibrant India for ourselves and the generations to come (who we should remember shall be studying in these campus that will continue to remain in a sorry state, if we don't act as a student, NOW).

HP medical student dies after ragging by seniors

Naresh Kumar Sharma & Anand Bodh | TNN 

Dharamsala: A Delhi boy who had taken admission in a m e d i c a l school in Himachal Pradesh last year met with a horrible death at the hands of seniors who are training to be doctors. 
    Aman Kachroo (19), who passed out of DPS International and enrolled at the Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College, Tanda, in Kangra last August had repeatedly complained to his parents about the brutal ragging on the campus—often by drunk third-year students. On Friday night and Saturday morning, the boy was beaten so badly that he died. 
    “Aman used to tell us about ragging, but we never thought that it was so serious. The firstyear students had complained to the college, but no steps were taken to stop it. We’ve lost our son, but many others can be saved if timely steps are taken,’’ his aunt Indira Dhar said. 
    The violence underlines the fact that campuses haven’t moved to ban ragging and treat offenders seriously despite SC warnings and orders. .....

   Terming it as an unfortunate incident, Himachal Pradesh health minister Rajiv Bindal said, “Strict action would be initiated against students who were involved in it. Police are looking into the matter and well ensure total transparency in the proceedings. An autopsy was done incamera and in the presence of a lawyer.”